Thursday, April 29, 2010

Happy Birthday

In my childhood , I was nicknamed Kaka . Among the few friends who know this , I refer to my wife as Kaki and most appropriately so as she fits into the image of Kaki, made popular by Kaka Hatharsi , the Hasya-kavi Shiromani of years gone by.

Some days back was my wife's birthday and she turned …...... ( oh, leave it to imagination - if she happens to read it she may find a whip to lash at me again for being politically incorrect.) Like always, my problem was whether to wish her a happy birthday or not.. Saying “ Happy birthday ” seemed too formal and banal ; moreover I do not ever expect her to say “thank you “, she being my be(i)tter half or to borrow a term three -fourth of me. So when we encountered each other in the morning – it is always an encounter - it was a gentle caress on her face that I dared . Going any further would have evoked the most expected response as “ Kuchh toh khayaal ( meaning
sharam) karo, ab toh aapkey bachchey bhi bachchey nahin rahe ” which would have been enough to floor me , overconscious as I am of being past my prime. Even otherwise , Kaki is unsparing and has a knack of catching words mid-air and throwing them back with more force and vigour, in common parlance byaj sahit.

We , poor husbands have to be more wary even while showing genuine love and concern in these days of women empowerment, not to face any situation summed up by who else but Ghalib :

Dhaul dhappa us saraapaa naaz ka sheva na tha
Hum hi kar baithey the' Ghalib pesh dasti ek din.

I wonder if this happens to all of us with more than quarter of a century of married life behind !

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Tea , the modern day Manna

The word teetotaller has always baffled me. According to dictionary it means one who abstains from alcohol or some such like drinks. Sometimes, the etymologist in me wakes up and I set for myself the task of hair splitting and indulge myself in unnecessary dissection of words. As I myself fit into the definition of teetotaller , I split 'teetotaller' into tee and totaller and came to the conclusion that the word means one whose addiction starts and ends with tea , the minor incongruity due to spelling difference notwithstanding. I guess I am not very far from the truth or the reality. Tea as we know originated in China and a story goes that a pedestrian traveller discovered it, while randomly plucking a few leaves from a shrub and putting them into his mouth. To his delight and surprise, this had a miraculous effect on him and his fatigue disappeared all of a sudden.He dug out a few plants and may have buried them in soil which virtually started the cultivation of tea. Surprisingly , tea came to India with the Britishers, who introduced this favoured drink to us and as usual we were quick to copy them , though not fully.

No doubt we Indians are relentless and ruthless tea takers, gulping down huge quantities of this favoured drink, from morning till evening without any accompaniment like biscuits or snacks most of the time with attendant health hazards . Tea break is necessary in all official meetings , sometimes tea being served during the meeting itself.

Lin Yutang the widely acclaimed Harvard educated Chinese author , who wrote in both Chinese and English with equal ease in his book, “ The Importance of Living ” has devoted a few pages to a sub-chapter with the heading, “ On Tea and Friendship ” dealing at length with the subject, prescribing the method and manner of picking, drying , making and serving of tea., as also when and when not to take tea. Besides, he has also prescribed certain things to be avoided. According to him , tea constitutes a culture in itself and is a symbol of friendship, sociability and etiquette .

We have grown up with only a handful of tea brands like Brooke Bond, Duncan, Lipton (Green & Yellow label) varieties. Later entrants are l Tata., Tetley etc.For most of us , boiling tea leaves, and sugar together in water and then adding milk is all it takes to make tea, while the more sophisticated go through the trouble of putting tea leaves in boiling water, stirring the brew, pouring into cups and adding sugar and milk to taste. It is also fashionable to bring the tea pot covered with a tea cosy so that it remains hot.

Presently tea is available in mind boggling varieties and packages, like tea bags, and come in different flavours like, herbal, jasmine and honey so much so that one faces the problem of plenty. As things go, tea has become an important part of our being , and whether for good or for bad, it seems hard to avoid or ignore.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Abhi Toh Main Jawan Hoon

Abhi Toh Main Jawan Hoon ……….. “ this beautiful ghazal penned by Hafiz Jalandhari and rendered no less beautifully by Malika Pukhraj, one of my all time favourites from across the border, has the potential to become the voice of thousands like me- who have left young age far behind and old age is just about to knock at the door . Denial may be admission, but assertion at times also stems from self doubt , which is the underlying thought in this ghazal.The repitition of lines “Abhi toh........... ….” appears to be a feeble attempt to negate the troubles and travails one associates with old age. Mirror they say always tells the truth a la a song- Darpan jhooth na boley- from a Bollywood film This is what sets people like me thinking. Unfortunately I never had beautiful lines of teeth to enable me to exude a Binaca or a Colgate smile , but still the teeth, asymmetrical, as they were , were an asset , for the facial looks , as my face had the appearance of a bhara chehra . This is another matter that I dared give only a Mona Lisa smile, with pursed lips lest my buck- teeth should show..

I am reminded of the inherent irony in the lines of a song :

" Dand motiyan de daney ,

Na hass jaan dig jaangey

-quoted by the famous writer Upendra nath Ashk in his novel “Bari Bari Ankhen” . The famous punjabi song rendered by the late Asa Singh Mastana “ Aayi jawani gayi jawani ….......... " is more forthright in suggesting to one to gracefully accept the arrival of old age and attendant troubles , travails and miseries. The following lines from the song deserve mention as being true and of utmost relevance:

Aayi jawani gayi jawani , hun oh mauj na mela ,

Jhar gaye dand motiyan vargey , ban gaya roop karela.....”

Be it as it may, there is no let up in defying old age and one does get a boost up by humming “Abhi toh main jawan hoon...... ."

Monday, April 5, 2010

So Much For Colour

It is difficult to imagine life without colours , as mother Nature has spread colours all around us in various shapes and forms.It is our constant endeavour to add colours to our lives through celebrations of various kinds. Little doubt that we have in India, Holi, the festival of colours.

For no particular reason , I have a liking for yellow colour and its various shades. Perhaps we all have a preference for one colour or the other. I am told that persons who have a liking for the yellow colour have spiritual bent of mind or some such inclinations , which in my case is only partly true. I am also told that persons in my league are susceptible to stomach ailments, which in my case is almost true. Somehow , this remains my favourite colour -perhaps it appears to me visually appealing. Yellow coloured capsicum , to me , is a visual treat .The colour yellow, when worn , is said to lift the sagging spirits and is a symbol of warmth, optimism and light. People have fads about wearing dress of a particular colour on different days of the week and yellow is earmarked for Thursdays. Otherwise the word yellow is prefixed to so many words and it assumes different connotations , some of them not flattering at all. However, Basanti ,(saffron) a shade of yellow symbolizes Spring season and also is a symbol for sacrifice . The famous song associated with Sardar Bhagat Singh, the martyr, “ Mera rang de Basanti chola…………” is a case in point, as also the bollywood movie “Rang De Basanti”.

Yellow pages in a directory are considered carrying useful information, while yellow journalism , which stands for sensationalism, is a repugnant term.

You may embrace yellow but yellow should never embrace you. This is a caution I have to give to whosoever reads this.

Sawan ke andhe ko hara hi dikhai deta hai” or its English version “Every thing looks pale to a jaundiced eye “ says it all, as I have learnt from my personal experience.

Some three years back, I had a bout of illness and fell a victim to - of all things- yellow fever or jaundice. And it was yellow colour which became the most disturbing. Pity my son , who had no other pastime than watching the television , had to switch it off so as not to give me creeps, as the screen appeared to me predominantly yellow, much like the Eastman color movies of yore and the sound appeared no less jarring, may be due to my near anaemic condition , which makes one less tolerant of things around. In the newspaper, that I subscribed to, pages carrying classified advertisements were virtually painted yellow. Thank God, this aversion to color yellow lasted only as long as my illness and with recovery and recuperation, returned my old liking for it.